We have never agreed that much to a future scenario such as the one depicted by Steven Gordon of the Speculist. Gordon writes about the “coffeeshopification” of many public venues – bookstores, museums, libraries and retail stores. His point of view is very interesting to the projects we have been developing so far with DESITA and ECOFFEE.
Here it is what Gordon writes in his very interesting article
Universities Will Become Coffee Shops
As reported by TreeHugger “The traditional university lecture is a completely anachronistic institution; there is no reason my Ryerson University students couldn’t watch my lectures on their computers at home or in a coffee shop. Most do; rarely more than 50% of the class shows up, because they know I post the lectures on the school website. As you can see in the photo above, even the students that show up have their noses in their computers. It is all a silly leftover from the days before books were printed and were too expensive for students, so the lecturer would stand up at the front and read from them. The reason for showing up these days is for, as Gordon notes, to “seek tutoring, network, and socialize.”- pretty much a big coffee shop.”
Book Stores Will Shrink to Coffee Shops
Ebooks are coming of age – for many reasons. You can keep your library in your pocket. You can annotate and share your thoughts within social networks. Writers can publish more directly to their audience. Once completed, the unit cost of each ebook sold is essentially $0. Those savings can (and sometimes are) passed on to the customer. Also, an ebook doesn’t have to be limited to the written word. An ebook can incorporate video, audio and other methods of presentation. Your book store is always with you and has every book ready to sell. Nothing ever goes out of print because there are no print runs.
Compare that with your local Barnes and Nobel. Those stores are huge but can accommodate only a small fraction of the titles available in the Kindle store. They require expensive real estate, buildings, and employees.
If you don’t like reading from an ereader, there are new on-demand printing options like the Espresso Book Machine that can print a book within minutes.
Between ebooks and print-on-demand, Barnes and Nobel sized stores shrink down to just their coffee shops – or maybe Starbucks takes over their business. Either way, custormers keep the experience of reading with coffee and those big comfortable chairs.
The Coffee Shop Will Displace Most Retail Shops
My Christmas shopping this year was 90% through Amazon Prime. Not having to fight the crowds and having it delivered free of charge to my home is a big plus, but as with the Kindle store, the online retail selection is much better that even the largest retail outlet.
Which is more enjoyable: Starbucks or Walmart? For the sane: Starbucks. So if you can accomplish your Walmart shopping at Starbucks, why do it any other way?
Also, imagine the 3D print shop of the future. You put in your order, probably from your smart phone, and then go pick it up. What does the lobby of such a business look like? Again: a coffee shop.
Offices Become Coffee Shops… Again
We’re going back to the future: the modern office was birthed in 17th century coffee shops. Steven Johnson has argued that coffee fueled the enlightenment. It was certainly a more enlightening beverage than the previous choice of alcohol.
The need for offices grew as the equipment for mental work was developed starting in the late 19th centuries. That need appears to have peaked about 1980. It was a rare person who could afford the computers, printers, fax machines, and mailing/shipping equipment of that time.
Now a single person with $500 can duplicate most of those functions with a single laptop computer. So the remaining function of the office is to be that place that clients know to find you… and that kids and the other distractions of home can’t.
Going forward the workplace will need the same sort of flexibility that I described for education. Groups for one project will form and then disband and then reform with new members for the next project. What will that workplace look like? Probably closer to Starbucks than Bob Par’s cubicle.
What will remain other than coffee shops? Upscale retail will remain – people paying as much for the experience as for the goods purchased. Restaurants remain. Grocery stores remain.
Brick and mortar retail stores will be converted to public spaces. Multi-use space will be in increasing demand as connectivity tools allow easy coordination of impromptu events. Some large retail stores will be converted to industrial 3D printer factories. These heavy-duty fab labs will fabricate products that are too big or complicated to fabricate at home.